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August 1987


Editorial Comment

What a Swirl of Events This Past Month!

Toward the Year 2000

Denominations Play Crucial Role in Making "Disciples of Nations"

A Latin America Mission Movement

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Toward the year 2000


Jim Montgomery

From its earliest days, Jim Montgomery has been a member of the board of the U.S. Center for World Mission and is now its chairman. As one of the top executives of Overseas Crusades, he was for years the managing editor of the Church Growth Bulletin, edited by Donald McGavran. He is well known for his book, Fire in the Philippines, and for his meticulous research on the state of Christianity in entire countries. In this article he speaks of a crucial organization which he founded a few years ago.

I sometimes wish the word DAWN (for "Discipling a Whole Country") were as beautiful and filled with such warm and pleasant connotations as the word "dawn." DAWN is the acronym we would get if we were talking about discipling a whole country. But who would come to a DAWN congress or commit themselves to a DAWN project?

If that were the case, there would be less confusion over what is meant by the DAWN strategy, a concept that is increasingly being accepted by national and international leaders as a new and powerful means for completing the Great Commission in our time.

Concerning DAWN, for example, Dr. Peter Wagner says flatly that "It is the best approach to world evangelization yet developed."

DAWN, as a technical term used to describe a specific strategy for Discipling A Whole Nation, was first coined by Dr. Donald McGavran sometime around 1980. He used it in reference to the program begun in 1974 in the Philippines which aimed at increasing the number of evangelical congregations in the land from about 4,000 to 50,000 by the end of the century.

The idea behind this goal was that mobilizing the whole body of Christ in a whole country to see that there was a church in every barrio and neighborhood by a certain point in time would be the most direct way to work towards the completion of the Great Commission in that country.

Dawn, of course, was a simple, familiar word filled with a lot of pleasant associations. With a minimum of explanation, it also expressed the strategic concept nicely. So it was a natural. The term would lend itself to the quick spread of the idea.

There was one problem, however. The term flew in the face of another powerful ö and biblical ö concept that was being introduced to the Church at the same time. This was the idea of  going about the completion of the Great Commission by entering and discipling one "people group" at a time.

For Dr. Ralph Winter had, in 1974 at Lausanne, Switzerland, blown our minds with the reality that whereas the Church was existent in virtually every country of the world, there were still possibly 17,000 people groups that had no viable Church within them.

These "people groups" were the tongues, tribes, ethnic and linguistic groups that the Lord was referring to when he commanded us to "Go... and make disciples of all nations." Therefore, to speak of discipling a whole "nation" (DAWN) when we really meant discipling a whole "country" (DAWN) might have seemed anachronistic. The time had passed for mission leaders to think in terms of countries rather than people groups or "nations." But DAWN as the name for an organization is very awkward.

So we stuck our necks out and kept the term that we felt would most rapidly catch on and therefore speed the completion of the command given by our Lord in Matthew 28, hoping that in time the confusion would resolve itself.

I have a feeling this is happening. More and more Christians are becoming aware of the concept of hidden people "nations." But as the DAWN concept also spreads, these same evangelicals are beginning to see there is no conflict between the two ideas of discipling "nations" and discipling whole "countries."

In fact, one idea is actually an applied strategy for implementing the other.

Here's how that works. DAWN acknowledges that in the biblical sense the world in reality is composed of thousands of "nations" or "people groups." But it goes on to say that the best way to make sure that all these "nations" will actually be found, entered and discipled is to divide them by countries.

How could we possibly hope to disciple all the people groups ö the "nations" ö of the world by any other approach? Who could devise and implement a worldwide plan for reaching all the thousands of "nations" of the world that did not acknowledge the realities of the way our world is already divided?

Countries are here to stay. We have to deal with countries when we consider politics, commerce, travel, warfare, history and a host of other things. Furthermore, mission societies, parachurch organizations and denominations are similarly organized around the idea of "fields" that are also "countries."

Not to be overlooked is the very real concept of patriotism and love of country, an emotion probably expressed and felt more deeply by believers than non-believers.

Think of the great evangelist John Knox and his lifelong cry of "Give me Scotland or I die."

Think of evangelical leaders who gathered in Guatemala a few years ago for their first nationwide missions conference. "There was an enormous insistence," reported Wade Coggins, then head of the EFMA, "that ÎWe are Guatemalans and we ought to be doing something about reaching all the peoples in our country.â There was a tremendous feeling of national pride and of putting themselves on the line in reaching their country." Nor is the feeling for countrymen absent from the Bible. Who but Jesus could weep over the callous city of Jerusalem where lived "his own" people. And what about Paul, going to the incredible extent of saying he could wish himself accursed if only Israel, his people, would turn to Christ)

As you will see as you read on in this issue of Mission Frontiers, the DAWN (or DAWN, if you prefer!) strategy puts these realities together into what is now a proven and rapidly expanding worldwide movement for effectively locating and moving into the still unreached peoples of the world as well as completing the task of "making disciples" of all those people groups already entered.

Perhaps one further clarification is in order. We believe the DAWN strategy is something God has raised up for just this time. As such, the strategy is not the property of one organization. In fact, in the thirteen countries where DAWN projects are already under way or are definitely being planned, 13 different organizations are taking prime responsibility. (Leaders in another 20 or so countries are seriously considering such a project.)

We also believe God raised up Dawn Ministries 26 months ago simply to encourage and support this movement of God. We do not sponsor DAWN projects ourselves. We simply say to leaders that if they are interested in a "DAWN" project, we have some "Ministries" that might be of help. We think of ourselves as catalysts and consultants that are eager to share our experience with any who believe the Lord would have them develop DAWN.

I personally felt a sense of calling to be involved somehow in world evangelization when I was a teenager. My life has been committed to that end. So it was not unusual that I was remarkably touched by the unreached peoples concept and reality that Winter so eloquently and forcefully addressed at Lausanne in 1974.

I was even more thrilled to become one of the founding board members of the U.S. Center for World Missions back when we were a small band of quite ordinary men huddled in prayers and dreaming in a cluttered office at the Pasadena campus.

For our vision was not for a piece of property, but of somehow mobilizing the quite incredible resources of the Body of Christ worldwide for a serious attempt at completing the Great Commission in our time.

The reality of thousands of unreached or hidden peoples is an understanding we must have if we as to realistically attempt to obey our Lordâs final and comprehensive command.

Dividing them by the countries of the world and attempting to mobilize the whole Body of Christ in those whole countries is not the perfect solution for completing that task. There are monstrous problems that we do not have space to address in this short article.

But many are beginning to see that this approach ö what we call the DAWN strategy ö is the best plan we have available to us at the moment. My prayer is that you will read further about this concept in Mission Frontiers and make the commitment to it that you in your circumstances are capable of.

In so doing, you join hands and hearts with a growing band who believe the time has come to drop everything unessential and work as effectively as we can in the task of entering and discipling all the "nations" in all the "countries" of the world by the year 2000.

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